You’ll meet award winning journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, and hear her presentation about what mining meant for the deep South.
Grimsley’s program, “Mining for Meaning in the Deep South,” will enlighten all on the meaning of this industry for the region.
Johnson replaced the late syndicated columnist Lewis Grizzard at “The Atlanta Journal and Constitution.”
She now writes her wise, witty and often poignant column once a week for the King Features Syndicate and her column appears in about 50 newspapers nationwide.
Johnson has covered the South for over three decades as a newspaper reporter and columnist. She has traveled the country in search of stories, and the voices and the spirits of ordinary Americans.
“Over the years, we have had requests for Rheta to come to speak to our brown bag audience,” said Shirley Spears, director of Comer Library. “Knowing that she lived out of state, we thought that would never happen, but when we invited her to Sylacauga, she graciously accepted. We are very excited about her visit and invite everyone to come out for this special occasion.”
Grimsley Johnson will have copies of her book to sell and there are also copies of her books in the library’s permanent collection.
“Hearing Rheta Grimsley Johnson has made me laugh and cry with her tales of growing up in the South,” said Ginger Clifton, a regular attendee at the library lectures who has heard Grimsley Johnson speak several times.
“She uses the beautiful language that stirs those common threads that run through our lives to weave our own memories of parents, cousins, religion, insecurities and hope and just the plain joy of living with the family we were given, in places where, like a Hank Williams song, the nights are dark and full and the world seems empty but for you and your kin,” Clifton said.
Grimsley Johnson’s human interest reporting has won her numerous awards, and in 1991, she was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
She is the author of “Good Grief, a biography of Charles Schulz;” “Poor Man’s Provence; Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming;” and “Hank Hung the Moon...and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts.”
The author will talk about her misadventures along the column trail, her travels, the interesting people she’s met and all the books that she has written with a little more emphasis on Hank Williams.
“I think the best writing is musical or rhythmic,” she said. “Hank always instinctively knew the right word. He taught me how to write.”
“Reading ‘Hank Hung the Moon’ is like sitting down next to Rheta and hearing her tell of how music, especially that of Hank Williams, who has been a mainstay in her life,” Spears said one of Grimsley Johnson’s reviewers is quoted as saying. “In this book she talks about scores of people whose lives have been influenced by the life of Hank Williams, from Grand Ole Opry stars to people living on the backroads of the South and even to people in prison.’”
“He (Williams) was brave,” Grimsley Johnson said. “He was in pain most of his life, but he soldiered on. It’s hard in this life to recognize your true talents, to stick to task, to let all the rest go. Hank knew how to do that and spent his short time alive making hay.”
Grimsley Johnson ultimately concludes, after having interviewed hundreds of southerners who all eventually seem to have a Hank story that “All roads lead back to Hank.”
A native of Colquitt, Ga., Grimsley Johnson grew up in Montgomery, studied journalism at Auburn University and has lived and worked in the South all of her career.
She now lives in Luka, Miss. and Henderson, La.
The Old Times Are Not Forgotten Brown Bag Lunch Series is sponsored by SouthFirst Bank. The refreshment room opens at 11a.m. and participants are invited to bring a sandwich and enjoy drinks and desserts provided by the library.
Working people are invited to come by on their lunch break to enjoy the programs, which will begin promptly at noon in the Harry I. Brown Auditorium.
Seating is limited, so groups must have approved reservations and may call 256-249-0961 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to make arrangements for attending brown bag programs.